04/20/05 — Mobile home proposal has fierce opposition

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Mobile home proposal has fierce opposition

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on April 20, 2005 1:45 PM

A Wayne County proposal to ban the movement of older mobile homes met with fierce opposition Tuesday at a public hearing.

A proposed mobile home standards ordinance would not permit any mobile home more than 15 years old to be moved into the county's unincorporated areas.

The ban would apply to homes moving from other counties and to those that are currently located inside the county's municipalities.

If an owner wanted to move a 15-year-old home that is already set up in the county, he or she would have 30 days to do so under the proposed regulations.

Dealers and representatives from the manufactured housing industry objected to the age requirement and told the county Board of Commissioners to go back to the recommendation of the county Planning Board, which would have nearly doubled the age limit.

In December, the Planning Board recommended that no mobile home that was manufactured before June 15, 1976, be allowed to relocate within the county. Planners chose the date because that is when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development established a building code for manufactured housing.

Commissioners discussed the ban during several work sessions over the past few months, and decided on April 5 to change the age requirement.

A number of county residents do not agree with their decision.

Jim Barnwell said that he was "all for cleaning up the county" but said that he foresees problems with the ordinance.

"A couple (of mobile homes) that I own you can compare with a 2003 model," he said. "There's no problem with fire because of age. One built since 2000 will burn just as quick as one built since 1976."

Barnwell said the age requirement should be dropped, except when a mobile home is moved into Wayne from another county. Barnwell also said that the county needs to address the problem of how to dispose of uninhabitable mobile homes.

Ivan Cohen, an owner of several mobile home parks, said that manufactured homes have a life expectancy of 48 years, and depreciate at about 30 years.

"When the manufactured home dealers sell it, they expect it to be at least 30 years," he said. "Age is what I'm having a problem with."

Cohen suggested that the county use other criteria to keep out undesirable mobile homes, such as limiting the size to 14-foot-wide homes.

He said that if the ordinance is approved, that the county could face lawsuits from a state group that advocates for the poor.

Joe Daughtery wondered why the commissioners had changed the planning board's recommendation.

"I was asked to serve on a committee to look at this," Daughtery said. "And we worked hard to find a balance."

Daughtery said that if the county enacted the 15-year cut-off date that older manufactured homes would be devalued.

"The homes are financed for 30 years," he said. "Restore the recommendations of the committee and the Planning Board."

Christopher Hollis, who spoke on behalf of the state Manufactured Housing Association, also asked the commissioners to go back to the ordinance as proposed by the Planning Board.

Vernon Bartlett said that many county residents need a place to live that they can afford.

"These rules are unfair," he said.

Willie Ray Starling said his mother lives in a 20-year old mobile home.

"I defy you to find one that looks as good," he said. "I think you should look at the condition of the home and have inspections like regular houses."

Pat Daley said he believes that the proposed rules discriminate against the owners of manufactured homes.

"There's too much government and too much rules," Ms. Daley said. "Go back to listening to the people."

Ellie Langston said she couldn't understand the need for the 15-year-rule, if the manufactured home in question is in good condition. She said she received approval for her mobile home park from the Planning Department in the early 1990s.

"I don't see why if something's not wrong in the early '90s why something is wrong with it today," she said.

County Manager Lee Smith said that the commissioners want people to have affordable places to live, but that homes must be safe.

"So we had to look at the age of the manufactured home," Smith said.

He said the county will likely consider extending the 30-day time limit to move a mobile home within the county.

J.D. Evans, the chairman of the board of commissioners, said they do not approve ordinances lightly.

"We do take into consideration what you have to say," Evans said.